Thursday, 30 August 2012

Change always a good thing...

Ruff, Cley Marshes NWT

Ruff, Cley Marshes NWT
Sorry about the backdated images of Ruff from Cley (taken I think back in 2009) I just had to try out image size problems I had. Problem sorted, me and my lack of computer knowledge to blame. Just give me a hammer and I'm happy as Larry, give me a computer and I go into complete mental blackout...
The title of this post is just to let anyone who takes images of butterflies,dragonflies,spiders etc know that it might interest you that Birdguides are now doing uploads for images of our creepy crawlies and not just birds.  If you're not familiar with Birdguides there's a link to the website on the left hand column of this blog. There's a lovely Purple Emperor image from Fermyn Woods, Northants on there, I suspect/hope Neil/Eleanor Mcmahon, Neil Hasddel and Doug "butterfly" Goddard might start to use the feature once word has spread.
Didn't do any birding today I had to drive a 10 tonne truck to Leeds and back for work the only interesting thing that I saw was some 70 year old lady in a Toyota Yaris overtake me then picked off three slower moving cars down a country lane, go on Granny made me chuckle when I see her blast past some boy racer in his modified Corsa, shame on him LOL

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Can't hit a barn door...

Swallow, on a good day!

Some days my quest for birds in flight just leaves me plain baffled. Take yesterday (28th August), I went out to the village of Cottesbrooke, with the intention of getting Swallow flight shots. The weather was hardly brilliant, one minute cloudy, then bright blue skies then followed by half cloudy and half blue. Typically the blue skies had me looking into the direction of the sun, no good for the exposure.
When I first pulled up to the spot there weren't any Swallows, it is getting close to the time when they migrate back to Africa, but on Monday there was loads of Swallows and Housemartins. Roughly 75 Housemartins and about 100 Swallows, I needn't worried as I was setting the camera onto a mononpod a juvenile Swallow whisked past inches past my face, quickly followed by about 5 more. Then the unmistakable screech of the main flock of Swallows, most of which gathered on the the phone cables. Great they are still about.
Getting back to the photography the problem was me not my gear, though I'm going to blame the weather  lol. I just couldn't get a sharp enough image of the Swallows skimming the ground for insects. The lack of light meant slow shutter speed and poor light meant any bird I did lock onto I wasn't happy with, either the eye was soft, wings blurred or the birds wing shape wasn't appealing to me. Grrrr... but things then get a bit worse, all the Swallows and Housemartins start calling (alarm call) and immediately like a pre-rehearsed fire drill, gather in one big flock....there's a predator around! But what? Around Cottesbrooke it could be Buzzard, Redkite, Sparrowhawk or the Hobby. Hoping it was the Hobby I started scanning the roof tops nearby, it's favourite tactic is to skim the roof tops and pull into a steep climb towards the bottom of the flock. I got my wish it was the Hobby, two things happen all the time, the juvenile Swallows and Housemartins flee into the nearby trees whilst the plucky adult Swallows harass and chase the predator away. The image I posted below illustrates my two points 1) The Swallows giving chase to the Hobby and 2) My complete inability to nail a decent image yesterday. In some ways in rubbish light I was not to bothered about missing it this time! Please also note I'm having issues posting images on here and after I post one I can't seem to adjust the size of the other images so please click on the smaller images to see the real size and to have a giggle at such rubbish photography skills lol.

The image above will surely get me some sort of award huh? Sadly the Hobby disappeared. And as the grey skies increased what happened next, yep the Hobby returned and I got a sharper image sadly with a horrible grey background...bugger

Please double click to see larger version (can anyone suggest why I'm having this issue with the posted images size). On the plus side I did get a Sparrowhawk nip through and a smallish flock of 12 Yellow Wagtails land, drink from a puddle sat on some roofs then flew south towards Brixworth village. I hadn't seen a Yellowwagtail this summer and couldn't get close enough for a decent image so here's another dodgy image of a Yellow Wagtail sat on a garage roof.

It could be quite easy to get frustrated at such situations but myself I prefer to try and figure out why and how I could improve the situation next time and then laugh about it. There was always the plus side of seeing great birds too. Hopefully next time out the images are better.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Harrington Airfield and Summerleys

My first stop of the day was Summeleys LNR. I hadn't been for a while and when I arrived it was quite apparent why I hadn't. Okay I got the usual passerines, 2 Common Sandpipers and about 6 Snipe on the scrape and a brief visit from a Little Egret. But there were no Redshank and no Little Ringed Plovers. Obviously the constant summer deluge of rain has had it's effect. There was some good numbers of Lapwings but I also noticed Common Terns were missing. Very bad year then, when I got home I checked my images from this time last year. I had images of juvenile Little Ringed Plovers, Common Redshank, Green Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, Lapwings, Hobbies, Kestrels and Common Tern. How bad things have got in a year. The Little Egret below was the best I could get in what was very poor light.
Little Egret, SummerLeys Local Nature Reserve

I noticed on Eleanor and Neils blog(northamptonshire birding) listed as blogs I follow they were reporting a Common Redstart at Harrington airfield. This site is massive and sometimes feels like looking for a needle in a very large haystack. This site used to have nuclear missiles based there. It shows in my mind how something quite dreadful can pretty quickly become something a bit more natural. NATURE 1 v MANKIND 0.
I walked up the main track and got near the reported site of the Redstart. I got to the first compound and the big stack of hay bails. Just before the hay bails is a clump of trees (next to footpath) which has some stone/road chippings banked up. On the ground were two Yellowhammers, 1 female Chaffinch and one Redstart feeding on some spilled crop. Sadly the bird is VERY shy I approached as stealthy as I could, I wasn't going to go down on my belly and crawl commando style as with me I feared I might be mistaken for a stranded Walrus. I adopted the crouch and crawl approach and was doing ok with the bird occasionally flying into a tree then when it was confident it would drop back down. I was about the distance acceptable for a record shot when I heard I different bird...a warbird. It was loud and low and looked like it was practising for an air show as I got a twenty minute display. Nice, I did enjoy it I have to admit (though my ears are still ringing) but when it had finished the Redstart refused to come out and play. I noticed it went under a lump of concrete, I hope no-one walks on it otherwise the Redstart my get squished. I'll have another go in my days off next week. weather permitting . Not sure what plane it is but two images below.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Not another post about Jersey..Marsh Harriers

Marsh Harrier, St.Ouens Bay
I promise I don't work for the Jersey Tourist board..not yet anyway :) When I first went to Jersey these birds surprised me. I approached St.Ouens Bay down a really, really narrow road/lane Mont Matthieu (I think that's how it's spelt) and at windscreen height this male Marsh Harrier glided over the road with a juvenile pheasant in it's talons...can't/won't repeat the expletives that came out of my mouth. Not only was I not expecting this species to be present on the island and if I had known I didn't expect such a close encounter, luckily, as with most of the roads on the island, it was so narrow it's not safe to travel fast (plus a maximum speed limit of 40 mph on the island). But the biggest surprise was the attitude of the farmers towards the bird, I was expecting it to be hated and loathed due to the fact I was watching numerous snatches of juvenile pheasants, typically in the UK this leads to such raptors being loathed/shot/poisoned etc. But  the pheasants are loathed by most of the people I spook too as the pheasants would eat the valuable potatoe crop, So any form of "pest" (hate that word) control was welcomed. I was chatting to one such farmer who waxed lyrical of the Marsh Harrier and let me walk along his field to get some images, nice man.
One of the best places on the island I watched these birds and others was from the carpark at the Val de La Mare resevoir. You sit on top of a big hill with the airport behind you and looking down onto St.Ouens bay, at one time I was watching four harriers gliding around below me with great views looking out to sea, the resevoir wasn't a bad walk either to be honest. As for photographing the birds the best I found was the potatoe fields situated behind St.Ouens pond. The harriers would often fly off the nature reserve into the fields to catch the Pheasants. If you're lucky you get flght shots of Pheasants too.

Monday, 20 August 2012

My first Turtle dove

The only time I 've ever seen a Turtle Dove was at Wicken Fen in 2009. Such is the decline of this species I was beginning to wonder if I would ever see one again. The one I saw at Wicken fen was to far away for an image so I enjoyed watching it through the scope and listening to it's unmistakable "turring" sound. I personally think the Cuckoo and Turtle dove are one of the few birds whose call that once you've heard, you'll never forget it. However the one I got today was obviously not calling due to the time of the year etc.
I pulled into the carpark at Stortons gravel pit this morning and saw it perched in a tree. I knew if I got out of the car or got to close it would fly off. So I put both windows down and then parked up. Gave it a few minutes to settle down and managed to get a few images, awkward angle and branches in the way kind of left me gutted I couldn't get a better image but was kind of happy to break my Turtle Dove "duck". I can now move it off my bogey list of birds I've failed to get an image of (just a few thousand left on that list now). The bird didn't stay for too long thanks to the arrival of some very noisy dogs and the bird flew off. I tried to relocate the bird, and spent a couple of hours trying to do so, but to no avail. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Other birds of note on site were Common Whitthroats,Willow warbler,Chiff Chaff and Reed Warbler. I posted two image on here and there's another extra two on my website.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

When Sprawks attack.

I thought I would post this image of a Sparrowhawk. I can't be sure what the prey in it's talons was. All I know I was walking along near Faulkners fisheries on Jersey trying to get a Rock Pipit image. When all the gulls started to squawk away. I turned around to see several Black Headed Gulls chasing the bird off, so I'm thinking it's a juvenile B.H. Gull. However giving the time of year the bird looks a bit too small. Great to see (as long as you're not a gull of course).

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Jersey bliss...

I had to go over to my mums house on Jersey to give the spare room a lick of paint, and replace some very dodgy guttering. I thought whilst at it I would install a few water butts and have a look at the garage roof, I'm convinced it's asbestos, luckily after a check from an expert it wasn't..phew.
I love going over to Jersey, it's like how France should be (joke), all the street names in French, very friendly people, yellow phone boxes and little gems to find all over the island. It truly is a photographers dream, great wildlife, flora, landscapes/seascapes and some unique historic structures ranging from WW2 installations and fortifications defending the islands from the French etc. Great weather normally too.
I had to pick the keys up from my mums house (her main home in the UK). I opted to go by ferry instead of plane. Number of reasons, but the two clinchers of the ferry over plane was 1:No baggage limit and not having to try and decide what camera gear to leave behind, no excess baggage etc and not having to trust some dodgy luggage handler throwing your bags around 2:Leaving from Poole harbour was a better choice than a dreary Luton airport. I mean I left Northants early to avoid the rush hour traffic. I did so well that I was able to check out a heathland section of the new forest (Dartford warbler,Stonechat and Buzzard) before breakfast and having arrived a good few hours before departure I parked up in a carpark where the car was no more than a 10 feet away from the pebble beach, here I got House Sparrows, 2 Ringed Plovers, a small flock of 10 Turnstones and several Sandwich Terns, you can't get that at Luton airport...just screaming little kids etc. There's the added bonus of leaving Poole harbour you go right past the scrape at Brownsea Island, never been there before, but I liked what I saw as the boat sailed past. Also you can have enough time for a quick pint (or three) a walk around in fresh air trying to spot any interesting birds. To be honest there wasn't much in the way of birds until we got to Guernsey where we sailed past a Gannet colony and Shags were also spotted.
Like I've already mentioned this wasn't a birding trip, but I was going to squeeze in a little bit of birding. My main target areas were St.Ouens Pond and St.Ouens bay, the main birds here are Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tits, Kestrel, Little Egret, Turnstones, Rock Pipits, Green Lizards. Also Les Landes, Noirmont and Porelet Common/Quaisnet Common, great for Meadow Pipits,Skylarks,Dartford warblers (though I didn't catch up with the Dartfords nor Cirl buntings GUTTED) etc. My mums house is near the airport so I also had great walks down the Greve de Lecq valley and down to Greve de Lecg bay, i encountered Red Squirrels and Tree Creepers, one nice lady I bumped into informed me that they were Short Toed treecreepers but not getting even a decent record shot I couldn't be sure but I took here at her word, she also told me about a location of a pair of breeding Cirl Buntings and how it was a new site for them I passed up the chance seeming as it was a new site, I didn't want to be the one that disturbed them. This kind lady then took me in her car up to Plemont Bay where we walked up to Plemont Point then turned around (I was knackered) and headed back towards Grosnez Point. Plenty of Rock Doves along this stretch, a Peregrine, Kestrel,Marsh Harrier(Grosnez Point),Wrens,Gannet's and Shags out at sea. Judith then told me about how Puffins used to be along here and also on the way home showed me a Barn Owl. Great lady and bearing in mind I hadn't met her before was very friendly (I mean she let a complete stranger in her car and showed me a few spots I was unaware of). I haven't had much chance to go through my images yet, I will eventually. On a slightly strange note I swear the Wrens on the island are slightly bigger not by much and I convinced myself they also sounded slightly different...or was it the heat? Still despite the spot of DIY a great trip, I'm going again for a winter and then a spring visit too. Would love to see what turns up in the autumn migration but I fear work will get in the way.